Tears and tunes

Apr 19th, 2007 | By | Category: Personal Columns

“Music should be able to bring tears to people’s eyes”, my piano teacher said this morning. I suppose the rejoinder should have been that with me playing the tears would probably be ones of pain rather than emotion, but the point was a serious one: music does have the power to bring tears to the eyes.

Today on Lyric FM, the presenter played a request for Oft in the stilly night, Thomas Moore’s beautiful 19th Century air.

Oft in the stilly night
Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,
Fond Mem’ry brings the light
Of other days around me:
The smiles, the tears of boyhood’s years,
The words of love then spoken;
The eyes that shone,
Now dimm’d and gone,
The cheerful hearts now broken!
Thus in the stilly night
Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,
Sad Mem’ry brings the light
Of other days around me.
When I remember all
The friends, so link’d together,
I’ve seen around me fall
Like leaves in wintry weather,
I feel like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet-hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled,
Whose garlands dead,
And all but he departed!

Oft in the stilly night was the music played on the radio as I drove from one country church to another on Remembrance Sunday in the North and listened to the ceremony in Whitehall. The commentator’s lyrical description of the scene and the skirl of the pipes conjured up a sense of other places and other times. Oft in the stilly night was at the heart of the remembrance of a lady I knew in the country.

Born in 1903, Irene had many memories of the First World War, but her stories generally worked round to concluding with one memory that she recalled with tears. Each Armistice Day Oft in the stilly night would be played and two little boys whom she had known at school would begin to cry, their Daddy had gone off to fight for King and Country and had never come home.

I remembered Irene as I sat and listened today – and all the little boys whose daddies had never come home. Music can bring tears to the eyes.

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